Depression is a serious feeling of sadness, hopelessness, dejection, self-doubt and so on. It affects people in many ways than we can imagine and causes havoc in our relationships, especially our most intimate relationships. This is bad news, because a good relationship is very therapeutic for somebody with depression.
What is likely to happen if your partner is depressed?
Depressed people are usually quite withdrawn with serious mood swings. They experience loss of interest or pleasure in activities they once enjoyed, changes in appetite, increased fatigue, feeling worthless or guilty and even thoughts of death or suicide. This can quickly lead to the non-depressed partner feeling that he or she is in the way, unwanted, or unloved. It can be easy to misinterpret the low moods as hostility, or as evidence that the depressed person has lost interest in the relationship. It’s really hard to stay calm and confident when your partner is acting strangely and appears to be so unhappy. But it really is important for you to understand that this is a phase and it would pass. People suffering from depression need all the love they can get.
Sex and performance
Sadly, lots of individuals suffering from depression often appear to lose interest in sex. Admittedly, this isn’t always the case, and some depressed people manage to maintain normal sex lives. Some even finding that making love is the only thing that gives them comfort and reassurance.
In men, the general damping down of brain activity causes feelings of tiredness and hopelessness, which may be associated with loss of libido and erection problems.
In women, this diminished brain activity tends to be associated with lack of interest in sex and very often with difficulty in reaching orgasm.
All these problems tend to disappear when the person gets better. Renewed interest in sex could be the first sign of recovery.
Sex and antidepressants
It’s not just the illness that affects a person’s sex life, antidepressant medicines such as Prozac can affect sexual function. One of the most common side-effects is interference with the process of orgasm so that it’s delayed or doesn’t occur at all. If this happens and you are keen to have and enjoy sex, you should ask your doctor to change your medication.
How depressed people can help themselves and their relationship
Some days will seem better than others. On your better days, try to make an effort to show love and appreciation to your partner.
- Try to go for a walk every day, preferably with your partner. Walking not only gets you out in the fresh air, but, like other forms of exercise, it releases endorphins in the brain. These are ‘happy’ chemicals that rapidly elevate your mood. And there’s considerable evidence to suggest that exercise can be as good for combating depression as any antidepressant.
- Even during your saddest periods, try to spot happy moments like a bird singing or a new flower blooming in your garden. Try to train yourself to notice three of these heart-warming moments per day.
- You may have an odd relationship with food while you’re depressed (you could have little appetite or constantly comfort eat), but try eating fruit daily.
- Listen to music that matters to you.
- Have faith that the depression will pass and that you will enjoy your life again.
- Even if you don’t feel like full-on sex, do make the effort to have a cuddle. If you are worried that cuddling will project you into full sex when you don’t want it, just tell your partner that you’re not feeling like having sex, but that you would really like to cuddle up. If you do this, you may both feel a lot better. Touch and closeness can keep a relationship intact.
How to help your depressed partner
- Don’t keep saying that you understand what your partner is going through. You don’t. Instead say: ‘I can’t know exactly how you’re feeling, but I am trying very hard to understand and help.’
- Try to remember that any loss of interest in sex is probably not personal, but connected with the illness. The fact is that many depressed people lose their libido.
- Don’t despair. Some days you’ll feel your love for your partner doesn’t seem to make any difference to them at all. But hang on in there. Your love and constant support should be of great help in persuading your partner of his or her value.
- Do encourage your partner to get all the professional help available.
- Try to act as though your partner were recovering from a serious physical illness or from surgery. Give plenty of tender loving care. But don’t expect improvement to be rapid.
- Do something nice for yourself. Being around a depressed person is very draining, so make sure you look after yourself. Have some time alone, or get out to a film or to see friends. Depressed people often want to stay home and do nothing, but if you do this too, you’ll get terribly fed up.
- Remember that your partner’s illness will pass and that he or she is the same person underneath the depression as before. .
- Try to take some exercise together. Most depressed people feel an improvement in their spirits if they do something active.
So if you’re finding your partner’s depression a real pain, try to take heart from the fact that this is natural, though difficult. And even if you are at your wits’ end because your partner has lost the ability to concentrate on what you’re saying, or to raise a smile, or to appreciate any of the good moments in life, do try to accept that these things are part of the illness. Remember communication is key